Some Vikings stayed local during their break, but many got away from the facility and out of town to completely for a mental break.
The Dallas Cowboys
are going to enter Sunday's NFC divisional play game on a hot streak, but the Vikings promise to be a very well-rested bunch.
The Vikings returned to Winter Park for light workouts on Sunday and Monday after a five-day break that coach Brad Childress gave his players as a reward for earning the second seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The break enabled the Vikings to ease back into things in the first part of this week. They will begin preparations for the Cowboys in earnest on Wednesday when they get back into their normal routine.
Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen
was among the Minnesota
players who said they enjoyed getting some time away from football. Allen, like many other veterans, agreed that it was probably even more valuable from a mental standpoint than a physical one.
"You know what? I enjoyed it," Allen said. "You don't need it but it definitely helps because the body feels fresh. The mind refocuses and you get ready to make the push."
That's exactly what Childress' goal was when he cut his players loose.
"There's a little more pep in their step right here, just from the time off their feet," he said. "I think Steve Hutchinson
said it too, just mentally, to be able to get away from the game a little bit, to watch somebody else work and watch some of those games — to be able to sleep in, those kind of things."
Nose tackle Pat Williams never lacks confidence and that is certainly the case as the Vikings' prepare to take on the Cowboys in an NFC divisional round playoff game Sunday. Dallas might have had success running the ball in its first-round victory against Philadelphia but Williams isn't afraid the Vikings will struggle against the run. "They have to come here and do it," Williams said of the Cowboys. "They ran on Philly but that's Philly. We're the Vikings. … Our game plan will be a whole lot different so we aren't really worried about it. They have to worry about us. So we put our game plan together so they have to come to our stadium and they have to worry about us. We aren't worried about Dallas right now."
Linebacker Ben Leber on the challenge presented by Cowboys tight end Jason Witten: "He's proven, he's been there. He's always effective, kind of a go-to guy for them. Anytime you can get a tight end that can stretch you vertically in the middle it makes it tough on your defense. They use him as a slot receiver sometimes so it's going to be huge for us as linebackers if we're matched up on him, to get hands on him and not let him get too far down the field."
WR Bernard Berrian is among those who benefitted from the Vikings five-day rest last week. Berrian has dealt with pulls in both hamstrings and clearly was slowed for much of the season.
SS Tyrell Johnson is expected to start against Dallas but could end up sharing the workload again with rookie Jamarca Sanford. The two split time in the regular-season finale against the New York Giants and the hard-hitting Sanford was impressive. Sanford provides a physical presence that the Vikings don't necessarily get from Johnson or free safety Madieu Williams.
DT Jimmy Kennedy had his left hand heavily wrapped as the Vikings returned to practice Sunday. Kennedy missed the regular-season finale after being injured against the Chicago Bears.
TE Jim Kleinsasser isn't much of a pass-catching threat but he remains one of the NFL's best blocking tight ends. That could be incredibly important on Sunday as Kleinsasser likely will help both left tackle Bryant McKinnie and right tackle Phil Loadholt against Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
CB Benny Sapp could start again at the left corner on Sunday if Antoine Winfield's injured right foot continues to bother him. Winfield played about 20 snaps against the Giants in the nickel and looked far more comfortable than he did trying to play extensive snaps at the left corner in the previous two games.